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"It is not clear to me that geopolitical risk has increased"

Veteran American mining financier Rick Rule continues to urge the industry to get on the front foot and engage publicly, and critically, with government leaders on social and resource rents and other issues that are vital to mining’s future – a test it has repeatedly failed in the past.
"It is not clear to me that geopolitical risk has increased" "It is not clear to me that geopolitical risk has increased" "It is not clear to me that geopolitical risk has increased" "It is not clear to me that geopolitical risk has increased" "It is not clear to me that geopolitical risk has increased"

Rick Rule: Miners are prisoners of politics

Staff reporter

Rule, the president and CEO of Sprott US Holdings, says in an interview with mining risk advisory firm Critical Resource that miners must be prepared to take a stronger stand and not allow politicians and bureaucrats to shun rational economic and social debate.

"The industry needs to be much more proactive on … the issue of resource nationalism and resource rent," he said.

"For example, we are confronted with cases like Zambia trying to tax First Quantum a sum that exceeds the company's global sales during the period of the alleged infractions. Not only does the industry need to point out the absurdity of that, but it also needs to initiate a debate on what is the appropriate level of social rent.

"We also need more political discussion about how social rents are distributed.

"It is no wonder that in places like Peru or Ecuador, indigenous peoples object to the water they have used for centuries being sold to the mining industry by central governments. Nor is it surprising that, with all the rents flowing to the capital, local people have come to believe that their exploiters are the companies active in their regions.

"Governments have recently begun to rebalance the distribution of benefits, particularly in Latin America. But the industry needs to lead the discussion more aggressively, inviting in a broad spectrum of civil society, especially in emerging and frontier markets."

Rule says miners too often were "prisoners of politics".

Resource nationalism was an increasing problem and trade wars were sure to make everyone poorer.

"[But] it is not clear to me that geopolitical risk has increased," he said.

"The sad fact about extractive industries is that we are prisoners of politics.

"Governments exist to reward some constituents and steal from others. If a regime becomes odious, most businesses would simply decamp that locale and go somewhere friendlier. As a group that is unattractive on its face and that cannot remove the capital it has put in place, and often as foreigners who cannot vote on the division of spoils, extractive companies are wonderful targets for the marauding politician."